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"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." Matthew 5:14-15

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." Matthew 13:45-46

Friday, July 31, 2015

A Bride at Last by Melissa Jagears

Silas Jonesey is alone in the world or at least so he thought. Abandoned as a child, and left by his mail-order bride ten years prior, he's shocked to finally get a letter from his wayward wife. He's not sure what to expect when she shares her location and asks him to come.

Kate Dawson is over-protective of nine-year-old Anthony, especially when the boy's mother dies and leaves his care to her. She isn't sure what to do when two men show up and claim to be the lad's father. Who should she trust? Does she really want to give up responsibility for the boy to either of them?

Melissa Jagears has created a delightful conclusion to her bride series. It's one that will thoroughly entertain readers and keep the pages turning. I give it a 4.5 out of 5 for happily-ever-afters.

This book was provided free for review by Bethany House Publishers - 2015.

Abraham and Isaac.... A Lesson I Thought I Would Have Learned by Now...

"Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.

Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”

So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” Genesis 22:2, 9-12, 14 (NIV)

I've had several times in my life where God has used this scripture to lead me to a new level of obedience, letting go and trusting Him. You think I would have learned this lesson by now.

The first time occurred when I had to give up my 'then' intended. I knew he was the man God had for me but the only trouble was I allowed my relationship with him to become more important than my relationship with God. I had to put my desire for marriage on the altar. Ouch! It wasn't until I released him that a few months later God brought us back together again.

The next series of testing came when we were trying to get pregnant. All the other spouses in our Army unit became pregnant... except me. In fact, we were the only ones who had been trying. Months later I finally became with child, only to lose it a few weeks later. Again I had to put on the altar my desire to have a child and pray and ask for His will in my life, even if it meant never getting my heart's desire - children. Well, in time, God gave us two handsome sons. 

So now I'm at my third session of laying my desires on the altar. Ever since I was a young girl I've desired to be a writer, to be published and see my books in print. While I have an agent and my works have gotten before quite a few publishers, I've yet to actually receive a contract.

I recently attended the Montrose Christian Writers Conference and during one of the opening sessions I knew that I needed to place my desire of being a published author at the feet of Jesus knowing I may never see that longing fulfilled. Still, He has called me to be obedient to write the stories He places on my heart, even if it's only for an audience of One. 

I choose to leave my desires on His altar and trust Him to work in whatever way is best. I choose obedience.

In what area do you struggle to be obedient? In what ways can I pray for you?

(Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Interview with Sandra Orchard

I first met Sandra at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference over five years ago so I'm delighted to have the opportunity to interview her. She had just received her first contract before we became friends. This is one talented lady. She has two recent releases, Emergency Reunion and Desperate Measures. When I asked her about her 'love of story', here's what she said.

I’m not sure what you mean. Half the time, before I’m through I HATE my stories. :)

LOL. Tell us a little about your new releases.

Desperate Measures is the much-anticipated final installment in my Port Aster Secrets mystery series, which Suspense Magazine described as “a perfect balance between research, science, and a mystery that holds a great deal of action.” The sleuth heroine is a herbal researcher searching for the secrets behind the plant a ruthless pharmaceutical company destroyed her family to control. And the detective who has fallen in love with her is mostly just trying to keep her alive!

My July Love Inspired Suspense title, Emergency Reunion, is about a sheriff deputy desperate to stop the stalker paramedic Sherri Steele refuses to acknowledge, before it’s too late. This is also the final installment in a series of LIS titles with connected characters that includes: Perilous Waters and Identity Withheld. RT Book Reviews has rated it a ‘Top Pick.’

I've read all three of the Port Aster series but haven't had the opportunity to read your LIS yet. I'm looking forward to it though. Did you always want to be a writer?

Oh, yes, as long as I can remember. At 12, I found a market guide book at the library and started sending off stories. Since I didn’t know what SASE meant, I didn’t receive any rejections, or anything at all, until one nice editor at Queen’s Press explained it to me. I decided boys were infinitely more fun for many years after that. But explored writing non-fiction after the birth of my first daughter. I didn’t think I could write fiction. I didn’t read many novels. That changed a few years later after my Mom died and I discovered Christian fiction. As the books piled up, my husband suggested I write my own, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I can relate. I also started writing at a young age. What advice can you give to writers trying to break into the publishing world?

Don’t be in a rush to get published. Take time to develop your craft and to learn how to draft compelling plots and character arcs.

I love this photo of you with your new book. :) For those of you who don't know, her newest book is set in Niagara, Canada where Sandra lives. You also won't want to miss downloading  Deadly Devotion which is free as an ebook right now.

How long have you been writing and what are your hobbies?

I started writing my first-ever novel in the fall of 2004 and signed my first contract in the fall of 2010.

I used to have a different one every few years. Things like knitting, painting, crocheting, sewing, quilting, dried flower arranging, jewelry making. Writing has stuck and…consumes all the hobby time, too. Well, now hobby time looks more like: learning how to update a website, blogging, oh, and reading!

Writing is a consuming hobby. :) Are you involved in a critique group?

I have a writing group that I meet with periodically. We don’t always critique. We often brainstorm. I also have a couple of writing friends that read through my work and offer general feedback, especially when I feel as if a scene isn’t working.

Friends like that are really important. Let's look at a few lighter questions. :) What is your 'go-to' food when you are writing?

Belgian dark chocolate. :)

:) What’s your favorite animal and have you ever used one in your stories?

Dogs. And yes, Rusty, a Golden Doodle was a popular hero in Identity Withheld. I also had a dog in Fatal Inheritance. But Rusty even got his own interview!

What a fun idea... interviewing a dog. :) If you have a day all to yourself how would you choose to spend it?

I’d probably write. What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment. Actually, when a story is flowing, there are few feelings sweeter than getting it down. And if the story isn’t flowing, brainstorming with fellow writers is tons of fun.

I know what you mean. I love to write, especially when a story is flowing. One final question. What spiritual truths do you desire to convey to your readers?

In Emergency Reunion, that it’s okay to let people see your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. That sometimes being willing to talk about them can help others and yourself in ways you might not imagine. God’s power is made perfect in our weaknesses. Don’t shut out the people you love. Be honest with them. Be there for them. Forgive them.

Desperate Measures addresses the question: Are you going to take God at his word? Or draw your conclusions based on temporal circumstances?

Oh, those are wonderful themes. Thank you so much for stopping by, Sandra. I know I'm blessed getting to know you a little better.

By the way, don't forget to leave a comment this month for a chance to win the following.

Also be sure to tune in next Wednesday for an interview with Brandy Heineman as she talks about her new book, Whispers in the Branches.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Erica Vetsch Shares About Her Life as a Writer

Today I'm pleased to welcome Erica Vetsch to the 'Love of Story' Wednesday feature. Her new book, The Cactus Creek Challenge sounds really exciting. Here's her bio:

Erica Vetsch is a transplanted Kansan now residing in Minnesota. She loves history and romance, and is blessed to be able to combine the two by writing historical romances. Whenever she’s not immersed in fictional worlds, she’s the company bookkeeper for the family lumber business, mother of two, wife to a man who is her total opposite and soul-mate, and avid museum patron.

Hello, Erica. Can you tell your readers how you got started in writing?

I think I was preparing much of my life to write stories. I was a voracious reader, serial daydreamer, and lived a vivid inner life (One that often got me in trouble with teachers and parents.) I would continue stories from books I read, having adventures with the characters, rewriting the endings of books if I didn’t like how the author had done it. I loved words, how they looked, how they sounded, how they felt on the tongue. However, it wasn’t until I was a homeschooling mom that I started writing stories down. From the first moment, I was addicted to the creation of story.

Cool. I didn't realize you homeschooled too. :) How do you get your story ideas?

Everywhere! I love visiting museums and reading history books. The world is full of interesting stories just waiting to be told.

I can relate to your love of history, Erica. Did you always want to be a writer?

Yes, but I didn’t know it. I lived stories and breathed stories, and eventually, I wrote them down.

Here's a short snippet about Erica's new book.

Anything he can do, I can do better. At least that was what Cassie Bucknell thought before she pinned on Ben Wilder’s badge and took to patrolling the streets of Cactus Creek, Texas. Cassie has been in love with Ben since primer school, but Ben treats her like a little sister. When they are picked to swap jobs for a month as part of the annual Cactus Creek Challenge in their Texas hometown, the schoolhouse is thrown into an uproar, the jail becomes a temporary bank vault, and Cassie and Ben square off in a battle of wills that becomes a battle for their hearts.

I’m so excited about The Cactus Creek Challenge. It’s a fish-out-of-water story that places a sheriff and a schoolteacher in the unenviable position of swapping jobs for a month. I had so much fun writing the chaos of the schoolroom (I am a former teacher, after all.) And Cassie, the heroine, is so what-you-see-is-what-you-get. She can’t help but speak her mind, and every emotion plays out on her face. She was refreshing.

I love the cover and can't wait to personally read it. :) How long have you been writing?

I started writing for publication in 2005, and received my first contract in 2008.

So you've been at it for ten years now. What advice can you give to writers trying to break into the publishing world?

Be tenacious. Be persistent. Be humble. Be patient. Don’t be in such a hurry that you don’t take time to learn. Writing is as much an occupation as an art, and it takes time to learn how to write publishable fiction. Be willing to learn, study, take critiques, attend conferences, meet people, take classes, etc.

Let's switch gears for a few minutes. If you could vacation anywhere, where would you go?

London, to the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Those two are on the Tippity-top of my bucket list.

They sound like fun. What’s your favorite animal and have you ever used one in your stories?

Horses, definitely. And writing cowboy books, I get to have lots of horses.

Gotta love a cowboy book. :) What’s something quirky about you that most people don’t know?

I love to watch cooking shows, but I don’t like to cook.

LOL. I'm not overly fond of cooking either, but I like to eat. What foods do you eat when writing to keep you going?

I drink copious amounts of iced tea in the summer and hot Earl Grey tea in the winter.

Ahh. A fellow tea drinker. If you have a day all to yourself how would you choose to spend it?

Visiting a history museum probably. I am a museum junkie.

I think I'm noticing a theme here. Chuckle. What are your hobbies?

Reading, crocheting, cross-stitching, and now quilting.

It sounds like we have similar interests. Could you share with your readers how you became a Christian?

I was blessed to be raised in a Christian home, and all the teaching, preaching, and prayers came together for me on a July day when I was 11. That’s when Jesus became my Savior, and I’ve been trying (with varying success) to follow Him ever since.

What spiritual truths do you desire to convey to your readers?

It is different with each book, but in every story there is the truth of the Sovereignty of God. God is in control.

Here's where you can touch base with Erica.

Thanks again for stopping by, Erica. Next week Sandra Orchard will be here for a visit. Don't forget to leave a comment this month to be entered in the drawing for the following.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Shot in the Arm

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Have you ever had one of those days? I remember all the years I took my boys for injections. They hated getting that shot in the arm because of the pain it caused. When they were little they couldn't understand how the procedure would be helpful in the long run in preventing them from catching various diseases.

I was having a discouraging day. I went for a walk and cried out to the Lord for direction. I came back home and read through emails that had been accumulating in my inbox. Through various writers declaring why they write, it provided the 'shot in the arm' of encouragement to me that I needed. Something I'd been lacking.

While I have those time of pain from the sting of 'a shot', I can rely on the fact that God is working even when I can't see results. He promises to strengthen, help and uphold. We have no need to fear or be discouraged.

What truths has God been showing you lately?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

This Wednesday I'm happy to have Michelle Ule here to talk about her new novella, The Sunbonnet Bride which is part of Barbour's The 12 Brides of Summer Collection.  The Sunbonnet Bride released as a $2.99 ebook-only, with two other stories, in Collection #1 on June 1, and will be part of the entire volume when it releases as an actual book in summer 2016.

Here's a snippet to wet your interests. :)

Bumbling teamster Malcolm MacDougall vies with suave banker Josiah Finch for the hand of the lively hat maker Sally Martin after a tornado touches down in the neighboring communities.

While Josiah sees an opportunity to make plenty of money to support a potential bride in style, Malcolm adds up the facts against his Bible and realizes helping those in need is more important than turning a profit.

When Sally’s hats become the stylish rage of southeastern Nebraska, will she choose a teamster or a banker for her life’s happiness?

I just finished this story and really enjoyed it. Here's what Michelle says about her new release:

What I like about The Sunbonnet Bride is that in addition to telling a short romance, it also examines what it means to run a business and the concept that it takes different types of people to accomplish God’s work in a community.

 Josiah and Malcom have two different ways of meeting a need, equally valid, equally important—and yet one seems more “holy” than another. Is that legitimate? Fair?

They raise questions about the legitimacy of making a profit—and help Sally see what it really takes to run a business. I’ve had many friends who have started small businesses but watched them come to naught because some basic ideas about cash flow aren’t understood. I hoped to show how to avoid that problem in this 15,000 word novella.

The stories in The 12 Brides of Summer Collections are sequels to our ebook releases from December: The 12 Brides of Christmas which releases as a book in October, 2015. My story in that collection is The Yuletide Bride (which I love because it rhymes and is a pun!)

That sounds neat. Can you tell us some fun things about yourself, Michelle, like favorite animals, vacations, foods and any quirks you may have?

Not sure I have a favorite animal but I’ve used dogs and chickens quite effectively in several stories. :)

Quirks—I have a slap stick sense of humor that embarrassed me regularly.

Food—I drink a lot of water while I write and chew bubble gum.

Vacation—I love to travel and would happily go anywhere. I’m on vacation right now at a lake with my extended family; I’d pretty much go anywhere my extended family wanted to go.

I spent 2.5 weeks in Europe earlier this year doing some research at London’s Imperial War Museum, then visiting a missionary in Sicily and relatives in Slovenia. In between, we ate and listened to terrific music through Italy and Austria. I got a terrific idea for a story in Salzburg, which I’m thinking about right now.

On my bucket list—a day in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg; a month in Australia. I’d love to see Egypt, which played a part in a recent novel I wrote but probably won’t be able to go there. I’d also love to see South American and Antarctica—but my husband is refusing Antarctica. My astronomer son, though, is game to try! :)

I’ve written about some of my adventures as Traveler’s Tales on my website: One of the most unusual, probably, was the wedding I attended in Transylvania . . .

LOL. Sounds like you've had some interesting trips. What do you enjoy doing on a day off?

I love to read and visit museums. I love to spend time in libraries and to travel. A perfect day off involves lying in bed and reading a terrific book until I have to get up. Spending time with family and friends, preferably involving good food, great books and travel—is the best day for me.

Stories, music and laughter—possibly with irony—is what I like best.

Tell us a little more about your love of story.

For me, love of story infuses every day. My husband often claims, "you don't care how bad things turn out as long as you get a good story out of it!"

I'm always framing an experience in "how can I tell others about this?" and it was quite a shock to me when my mom died suddenly. I hadn't realized how I spent the whole week laughing to myself, "mom is going to love this one," until she died and wasn't on the other end of the phone for the weekly call.

My college roommate used to settle on her bed after dinner each night with the request, "tell me a story about your day."

Which I did.

She laughed, "you get the whole gamut of life: characters, sub plots, intrigue and romance, all in one day at UCLA. Fascinating."

Another friend started off her Christmas card one year (!!!), "oh, if only had Michelle Ule's gift of story--she can even make laundry sound interesting."

So yes, love of story and stories themselves travel every day with me. It's a rich life.

:) Where do your story ideas come from?

I don’t have a problem coming up with story ideas—they seem to materialize through the air!

All of my Barbour publishing, however, has been the result of a prompt—I’ve had the title or the theme and written my proposal to that.

The novel I just finished—which is not yet contracted—came out of a request from an editor. The idea took hold and even when that publishing house went out of business, I continued with the story which I love. My next writing project is roughly linked to that one and I can’t discuss either one at the moment under orders from my agent.

History is replete with ideas. I’m often caught by an incident which strikes me as ironic or funny and follow it.

It sounds like you have a good idea you are working on. How did you get started in writing, publication and how long have you been writing?

Like many writers, my desire to write began early. I wrote my first “novel” at the age of 7. It was three pages long about a mystery at an amusement park. I was surprised the whole story could be told in only 3 pages and realized I needed to learn a little more—perhaps in second grade?

I always loved English classes and writing assignments and began writing short stories in high school. One of those stories won a national writing award and when it was time to choose a college major, I flipped a coin between English and History. It came up English and that’s what I earned my degree in at UCLA.

The most important thing I did in college, however, was when I realized I wasn’t writing enough for myself, was to get a job at the UCLA Daily Bruin—figuring a writing job would force me to put words on the page. I’d recommend a slot at a newspaper for anyone interested in writing. I learned how to write on deadline, think through what exactly the story was about and how to ask questions. An invaluable experience.

Once my children were mature enough they didn’t need me constantly, my father died after a lingering illness and my husband retired from the Navy, I had enough money and time to attend the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, where I learned a great deal about the publication world. I’ve attended that conference half a dozen times now and think it is an invaluable opportunity to learn about the publishing industry.

While I was at Mt Hermon the first time, I got into conversation with the one other attendee who lived in my town. As it happened, she lived around the corner from me and about a year later I got a job as her editorial assistant. Her name is Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency and she is now my agent as well. :)

I’d worked for Janet for six years before an opportunity arose to write a proposal for a novella for Barbour publishing. Becky Germany liked my idea for , and I was award a contract to write that Christmas novella the very day my husband and I drove our last child to college.

When the nine-author collection, A Log Cabin Christmas Collection, released in fall 2011, the book made the New York Times best-seller’s list, a shocking surprise for a novice writer.

After that first collection, I’ve written for four more, along with a stand-alone Navy SEAL novel called Bridging Two Hearts, also published in conjunction with Barbour. A Pioneer Christmas Collection also was a best-selling Christmas novella collection, and will be released for an encore in September 2015.

I love the way God brought that together for you. Could you share with us a little bit about your faith?

I became a Christian while in high school thanks to the volleyball ministry run by a neighboring Lutheran Church.  I’d been raised in a perfunctory church setting by a mother who told me to never discuss God at home—my father was hostile to the idea of God and the church. When I got involved with the local Lutheran Church, they presented Jesus in a way I’d never considered before and I was intrigued by the idea a book could provide a roadmap for how to live a life free from guilt.

Being able to confess sin and be forgiven is the heart of life and joy—thanks to the working of Jesus on the Cross.

I’ve walked with the Lord consistently through my life, spared by His grace, and that notion that we can know the Creator of the Universe—the God who spun the planets across the skies—is at the basis of my writing. I’ve taught Bible study and been a lay counselor my entire adult life and everything I write must have a spiritual truth.

My friend Lynn Vincent once commented there is no point in writing fiction unless it points back to God. I agree and all of my writing is infused with a notion that we worship of God of order, who takes us through interesting pathways for the sake of his glory—not our convenience.

While I’m known as an historical fiction writer, I’ve also written a number of unpublished contemporary novels which have a sense of forgiveness, recognizing God at work despite the circumstances and how to love God in a time of upheaval—whether physical, spiritual or emotional.

I’m interested in the how and why—how people survive challenges and come through them spiritually intact, as well as why they do the things they do—especially when they don’t understand themselves.

I cannot abide a novel I don’t learn something from and so I try hard to make sure my facts are correct and the experience of reading one of my projects provides a spiritual take away for the reader.

I understand wanting to share faith in your writing. Could you give a few pointers for writers?

I’ve worked as an editorial assistant since 2004. I’ve seen many changes in the publishing world. Here are a few pieces of advice:
  • Master the basics—know something about grammar, story construction, Word, and strong verbs. Read a lot across genres and learn about the industry itself.
  • Give yourself time—plenty of time. While society may love an immature writer with a terrific idea, most of the great writing comes out of experience. The publishing life takes a lot of time and patience is a virtue.
  • Don’t become discouraged if your first effort doesn’t win universal acclaim and a fat contract. Trust me, it takes time to establish who and what you are as a writer. You may be an excellent writer, but some of the saddest publishing situations I’ve seen are writers whose first book sells and then they have to come up with another one right away. The pressure is enormous.
  • Having a half-dozen projects completed is a good thing. You can then choose from what you’ve already completed when you have to come up with that second book!  J
  • Plan on having everything edited—especially if you choose to self-publish. You really don’t want to put out work that hasn’t been edited.
  • Attend a writer’s conference, become a member of ACFW, don’t expect to publish overnight, find writer friends, read books on craft, and don’t give up your day job.
Thanks so much for taking time to be with us, Michelle. If you want to connect with Michelle Ule, you can find her here:

Twitter: @michelleule
Pinterest: michelleule

Next week Erica Vetsch will be visiting the Love of Story feature.  You won't want to miss it. Don't forget to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for the following.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Christina Rich Shares About Her New Book and 'Love of Story'

Today I'd like to welcome Christina Rich as she talks about her new book, Captain of Her Heart which just came out yesterday with Love Inspired Historical.

Christina, tell us a little bit about your new book.

Sold into slavery by her jealous sisters, Ada finds herself captive on the ship of a Greek merchant. Expecting a harsh new master, she's surprised to find the captain compassionate—and attractive. Yet she can't fall for the man who owns her—not when she watched her enslaved mother pine after her unyielding father. 
Nicolaus only wants to rescue the beautiful, mistreated woman from the auction block. He plans to free Ada, just as soon as he secures his inheritance. Which means racing the ship back to his homeland to best his brother. If he loses, all his cargo will be forfeited—including Ada. But as perilous storms reveal her courage and grace, the question becomes, can his heart stand to let her go?

That sounds like a fun and exciting tale. What spiritual truths do you desire to convey to your readers?

I’m big on God wanting our hearts. It doesn’t matter if you’re Jew or Gentile, we’re all in need of a savior, and God says that he desires mercy over sacrifice and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. He wants us. When God said David was a man after his own heart, he didn’t necessarily mean that David had a heart similar to God, but rather David chased God’s heart with everything he had in him, even when he was deep in the muck and mire. The other thing I like to convey, especially being a romance writer, a threefold strand can’t be easily broken. Put God at the core of relationships.

How did you begin a personal relationship with God?

I’m one of those who grew up in church. When I was a kid I’d get made fun of for being a little-church-girl. However, I was also one of those people who recited the salvation prayer every time it was offered just hoping that one day Jesus would really make it true. I was saved back in 1991, but I don’t think I had a full understanding in my heart. I continued reciting that prayer and wondering if I’d ever be good enough for Jesus to love. I could lead people to the Lord and believe it for them, but I had extreme difficulty believing it for myself, which I’ve found that this seems to a truth with many people. It wasn’t until 2008/2009 that Jesus really revealed himself to me. It wasn’t about my ability to be good enough, but about what He’d already done. My husband said something very profound the other day, “The value of a person is determined by the one who paid it… Jesus paid it all.” That is so true, and I have no right to decide otherwise, nor does anyone else. Jesus decided I was worth the cost of His sacrifice. We all are, we have to choose to live fully for Him.

Well said, Christina. What’s something quirky about you that most people don’t know?

Hmmm…. Wouldn’t you like to know. ;) Seriously, I’m not sure I have a quirky bone in my body. 

LOL. :) Do you have a favorite animal and have you ever used one in a story?

I’m an animal lover. Period. We have dogs, three of them. In my first story I used a cub and a donkey. In Captive on the High Seas there are dolphins.

This story is about a far off place, If you could vacation anywhere, where would you go?

I have a list. :) Israel, of course. Scotland, Ireland, and Greece. Maybe New Zealand and Australia. Oh, and I’d love to see whales and dolphins in their natural habitat. And I kind of think diving in a cage to see sharks might be an experience I’d enjoy. Maybe.

Chuckle. You are much more adventurous than I am. :) How did you get started in writing?

I’ve dabbled in writing for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until 2006 I discovered I could actually do this and succeed. I entered a writing contest, and although I sorely lacked grammar skills I came in 35th out of hundreds in the first round.

Wow. That had to have been encouraging. Did you always want to be a writer?

For as long as I can remember. I used to stare at maps when I very little and dream up adventures.

Smile. How do you get your story ideas?

My story ideas come from various places. I’ve dreamed about characters, I’ve been inspired by real-life situations. Captive on the High Seas was inspired by Joseph’s story where his brothers sold him into slavery.

What advice can you give to writers trying to break into the publishing world?

I’m not going to tell you to sit and write, that’s an obvious. And I’m not going to tell you that you can’t edit a blank page, that’s an obvious, too. What I will tell you is that you should always pray over your project. God gave you the gift and the desire to write, so give it over to Him. Secondly, scripture tells us that we are to do everything as unto the Lord, so honor Him with your words. Thirdly, don’t lock yourself in a box of ‘I must land a contract’. Do your research on publishing houses. Sometimes, no contract is better than a contract and don’t be afraid to self-publish, especially given the market these days.  Just make sure your best work is out there, not your second best, but your best.

Great advice, Christina. What foods do you eat when writing to keep you going?

Baby carrots! And if I’m to be honest ;) chips. Not the healthiest thing and something I intend on changing.

:) Before you go, could you tell your readers about your 'love of story'?

As an inspirational romance author some times you get flack from both Christians and non-Christians. Some believe inspirational romance writers create an unrealistic world for our audience. They believe our readers will begin to desire a hero that cannot exist. What I love about writing stories and reading other Christian romance authors is the fact the hero and heroine, through faith, overcome obstacles. I believe our stories encourage our readers to stand for God, accept nothing less than God's best for us, including (especially) romance, and to overcome obstacles to love.

Well said, Christina. Thank you for stopping by for a visit. Don't forget to check out her new book and also leave a comment this month to be entered into a drawing. Here's the grand prize.

Be sure to tune in next Wednesday for an interview with Michelle Ule.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Desperate Measures by Sandra Orchard

Kate Adams has a knack for finding herself in the midst of police investigations. As a researcher, she's trying to discover what she can about a "miracle plant" and why a big corporation is controlling everything about it and are willing to go as far as murder to keep word from getting out about the plant.

Detective Tom Parker is trying to solve the mystery surrounding Kate and the trouble she falls into while also letting the impulsive woman know he cares for her. When he finds her withholding information from him and afraid to trust, he must dig deep to uncover the answers.

Desperate Measures is the third and final installment in the Port Aster Series by Sandra Orchard. Readers will find this one a special delight as the two grow and learn how much they care for each other. I give it a 4.5 out of 5 for happily-ever-afters.

This book was provided free for review by Revell - 2015.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Betsy St. Amant - Love of Story Feature

Welcome to my new feature with author interviews, reviews, stories, giveaways and much more. Everybody loves a good story. Words - whether spoken, written, or watched on the big screen have the power to tug our hearts.
Today I'd like to welcome Betsy St. Amant. (This is a reprint from my website in case you missed it. :) )
 Her contemporary romance, Love Arrives in Pieces, came out June 9th. Here's what the back cover says:
For so long, Stella was known for her beauty. Now, with her heart stripped bare, she must discover who she really is.

Former pageant queen Stella Varland doesn’t trust beauty anymore after her divorce. Her appearance betrayed her and led to brokenness, so instead of being beautiful, now she tries to make beautiful things, but she always falls short. So she keeps her passion for art to herself and focuses on her interior design work. But if she doesn’t get another job soon, she’ll be stuck living with her parents.

Contractor Chase Taylor is determined to live a life of no regrets after losing his fiancĂ©e. Now he lives life at full speed, striving to see how much he can accomplish. He knows if he slows down, he’ll fall apart. So he returns home to Bayou Bend to renovate the town’s old theater and is shocked to discover that the designer for the project is his old flame, Stella.

Forced to work together, Chase and Stella battle their chemistry and past as they struggle to
compromise and work together on a vision for the theater. Their wills clash as they attempt to hide their brokenness—and their unresolved feelings for each other—until Chase discovers the hidden parts of Stella, while losing her trust in the process.

A near catastrophe, a fire, and a small-town gossip mill finally force Stella and Chase to realize that they have a choice—to hold on to the shards of their pasts, or surrender their fragmented pieces to the One who makes a beautiful masterpiece from their brokenness.
 Betsy sat down for a few minutes and shared about her book and her writing life.

1. Can you tell me about your love of story?
I've had a love of story since I was a little girl. I believe stories, even fiction stories--maybe even especially fiction stories--tell great truth. I love that Jesus spoke in parables (a form of story). He knew that's how our hearts respond the deepest! Think about when you read from a textbook or from something else factual--you might remember the information, but it doesn't resonate the same way. It doesn't linger. But when you incorporate faces, history, settings, and emotions into those facts--that's when you live it for yourself. That's when you remember. That's when you believe.

2. So Betsy, tell us about your new novel.
  • I wrote Love Arrives in Pieces because I wanted to show the after-story of a woman scarred by divorce. The book doesn’t focus on the divorce, and it’s not a romance between the heroine and her ex husband. But it features the hope that comes from trusting God, moving on, and continuing to find healing—and love—in the strangest of places. Stella Varland (the heroine in the story). while not pining away for her ex anymore, is still walking through the residual effects of a divorce she never saw coming and never asked for. I hope it encourages other women who have to wear those same ill-fitting shoes. I want to show them their story is not over!
That sounds like you dug into some deep issues and also shows your readers hope.

3. What spiritual truths do you desire to convey to your readers?
  • I’m all about themes of redemption and restoration in my stories. When I went through my divorce, I would hear the term restoration and think that automatically meant restoring my marriage. But that wasn’t what happened—instead, God restored my heart. He restored my faith. My hope. My joy. He saw the death of one dream and provided me with another. The same month my husband left, I got a contract with my dream publisher. That wasn’t a coincidence! He is all about restoring the years the locust ate, and He is still doing that in my life. I have no idea what it will continue to look like, but it will be good. Because He is good.
Wow, that's really powerful.

4. Could you share with your readers how you get your story ideas?
  • Absolutely nothing and everything can prompt a story idea in my head. For example, I was driving to Dallas for the RT Convention last May, and saw this tree on the side of the highway. It immediately, like a shock wave, sparked this entire, crazy idea for a story that I’m still excited about. Just by seeing a tree. I also get inspired for new book ideas through music. I’ll hear the story in the song and it’ll play in my head like a movie. You just never know where the next book is going to come from! :)
LOL. So ideas come from all sorts of unusual places.

5. What’s something quirky about you that most people don’t know?
  • I really like straight lines. I think an entire area can be cleaned and look 100% neater if everything is just simply straightened. I do that all the time at my family’s house or a friend’s house, or at work—just start absently straightening things on their desk or table, etc. and voila! Half the time I don’t even know I am doing it. But hey, I always leave things looking nicer than I started ::wink::

6. What are your hobbies?
  • I love writing, obviously, and reading, as they tend to go hand in hand! I also really love fun exercise classes like zumba or kickboxing. I enjoy being outside in the sun, whether it’s taking a walk or laying by the pool or just sitting on a bench.  I also adore the beach!
I'm sure you are enjoying summer then.

7. Speaking of summer, if you could vacation anywhere, where would you go?
  • Florence, Italy. Ever since I read Susan Meissner’s book “The Girl In The Glass” I’ve become obsessed with visiting Florence one day. It will happen! :)

8. Finally, if you have a day all to yourself how would you choose to spend it?
  • There would definitely be a pedicure involved, along with a white chocolate mocha from Starbucks, a sugar cookie from Panera Bread, roaming through a bookstore, and shopping for new shoes.

It sounds like you know how to have fun. Thank you so much, Betsy for stopping by today. As a kick-off this month to my 'love of story' feature, I'm giving away the following.

To put your hat in the ring, be sure to leave a comment. I'll be drawing a winner on July 31st. Thank you for visiting today.